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Vietnam Veterans Day: Those who have served get in free to museum on March 29

Admission will be free for all military veterans and active duty personnel on Wednesday, March 29, at the South Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, in observance of National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

This is fitting, because Congress established this special annual day for Vietnam veterans for some of the same reasons the Relic Room put together its major new exhibit, “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” Both were about recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of veterans who had not received the same kind of respectful attention accorded to previous generations.

As the Gary Sinise Foundation said in connection with National Vietnam War Veterans Day:

Service members who survived their deployment to Vietnam returned home to an ungrateful welcome. It was devoid of the fanfare that was showered upon returning GIs from Europe and the Pacific in World War II.

What was expected to be a warm reception turned out to be a hostile and unceremonious welcome….

Maybe it wasn’t that way for everyone, but it was that way for far too many. And even those who returned to warm personal welcomes watched over the next 50 years as the country obviously remembered their service in far less glowing terms than it had the service of their fathers.

The Relic Room hopes anyone who visits on this special day will devote significant time to touring and studying the new exhibit. If they do, they will be immersed not only in the stories of South Carolina’s Vietnam veterans, but also in the environments that they experienced. The exhibit provides a glimpse of what it was like fighting in the jungle, in the Mekong Delta, and in the cities of South Vietnam. They will pass through thick foliage, encounter soldiers wading through a rice paddy, and enter the wreckage of a street in Hue during the Tet Offensive.

They will see a wide assortment of artifacts carried into battle by their neighbors who served, adding physical immediacy to the personal stories they can listen to from recorded interviews with many of the veterans themselves.

On March 29, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed a full observance designated as Vietnam Veterans Day. The proclamation said, in reference to the first U.S. combat action in country in 1962:

Through more than a decade of conflict that tested the fabric of our Nation, the service of our men and women in uniform stood true. Fifty years after that fateful mission, we honor the more than 3 million Americans who served, we pay tribute to those we have laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication to showing a generation of veterans the respect and support of a grateful Nation.

In 2017, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act established the observance permanently. March 29 was chosen because on that day in 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam.